Friday, September 30, 2005

War Theory

Via James Wolcott, fascinating stuff:


William S. Lind, the salty theorist of Fourth Generation warfare who has shared van Creveld's misgivings from the outset of Gulf War II, argues that the U.S. will undergo its own internal convulsions, a true crisis of the state:

"Fourth Generation war is asymmetrical, but it is asymmetrical on a much broader scale than simply the pitting of a conventional army against guerrillas. The larger asymmetry is political. Fourth Generation war pits a state, or alliance of states, against a shifting mass of opponents of wildly varying motives and goals. Among the problems that presents is that the state has no one to talk to about making peace. Who does Mr. Kissinger sit down with in Paris this time?

"Nor does Fourth Generation war have as its objective the mind of the leader on the other side. Rather, what it does is pull its enemy apart on the moral level, fracturing his society."

Lind quotes perceptive comments from journalist Georgie Anne Geyer (once a regular on PBS, she has been largely invisible on the airwaves since becoming an outspoken critic of Imperial America) and former ambassador Charles W. Freeman. Quoting Geyer--"More telling was the lack of debate even in Congress over the war: 'This is not,' [Freeman] averred strongly, "just a political problem; it is a systemic breakdown in America"--Lind hammers the point home:

"That is just what Fourth Generation opponents strive for, a systemic breakdown in their state adversary. The danger sign in America is not a hot national debate over the war in Iraq and its course, but precisely the absence of such a debate – which, as former Senator Gary Hart has pointed out, is largely due to a lack of courage on the part of the Democrats. Far from ensuring a united nation, what such a lack of debate and absence of alternatives makes probable is a bitter fracturing of the American body politic once the loss of the war becomes evident to the public. The public will feel itself betrayed, not merely by one political party, but by the whole political system.

"The primum mobile of Fourth Generation war is a crisis of legitimacy of the state. If the absence of a loyal opposition and alternative courses of action further delegitimizes the American state in the eye of the public, the forces of the Fourth Generation will have won a victory of far greater proportions than anything that could happen on the ground in Iraq. The Soviet Union's defeat in Afghanistan played a central role in the collapse of the Soviet state. Could the American defeat in Iraq have similar consequences here? The chance is far greater than Washington elites can imagine."

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